Cultivating Mental Resiliency

“Mental resiliency is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously.”
– Josh Waitzkin


Josh Waitzkin is an American chess player, martial arts competitor, and author. As a child, he was recognized as a chess prodigy, and won the U.S. Junior Chess championship in 1993 and 1994. He is the only person to have won the National Primary, Elementary, Junior High School, High School, U.S. Cadet, and U.S. Junior Closed chess championships in his career. The movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is based on his early life.  As a young adult, Waitzkin’s focus shifted to the martial art Taiji Quan.  He holds several US national medals and a 2004 world champion title in the competitive sport of Taiji Push Hands.  Waitzkin also became a championship coach and is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under world champion and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenomenon Marcelo Garcia.  He is the author of The Art of Learning.


Josh says in his book, “Mental resiliency is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continuously.”  Based on my experience, I completely support Josh’s strong suggestion to cultivate mental resiliency.  High performance psychology is the cornerstone world-class leadership.

“I’m always looking for more and more ways to become psychologically impregnable.”
-Josh Waitzkin

And, in my view the key here is the imperative to continuously nurture mental resiliency.  It doesn’t matter how mentally tough you are today, you can and should get tougher.  This trait isn’t binary….it lives on a continuum.  Already mentally tough?  Work on getting tougher…because there is always a looming challenge that lies beyond your current capabilities.  In the top 10% get in the top 1% and so on…


My view is that mental resiliency means the ability to control your mental and emotional state in times of duress.  Mentally resilient leaders maintain focus and control regardless of the highs and lows of the world around them.  They happen to life, life doesn’t happen to them.  In fact, they leave a positive dent on the world.


Mental resiliency requires, among other traits

  • Self awareness – everyone thinks they are but few measure up
  • Self control – you MUST have the ability discipline your behaviors and thoughts
  • Emotional stability  – be emotional but be in control of them…not hostage to them.
  • In particular, you must eliminate anger from your realm of emotions
  • Continuous improvement mindset – this is the key


Josh says, and I agree, that “the solution…does not come from denying our emotions but in learning to use them to our advantage.”  We must channel our moods into heightened focus.

In my opinion, this ability requires a core belief that you are in control of how you feel…not external events or the world around you.

Like every skill, mental resiliency comes from practice.


Rob serves as the Managing Partner of Integis, a retained executive search firm with offices in New York, Cleveland and San Francisco that is exclusively focused on the private equity-backed, middle market.  The firm’s mission is to drive multiples of invested capital (MOIC) for private equity firms by recruiting high-impact portfolio company C-Suite leaders.  The firm has played a key part in helping many of its private equity clients achieve top-quartile and top-decile results.  Under Rob’s leadership, Integis has been twice recognized as one of America’s fastest growing privately held companies by the Inc. 5000 in 2015 and 2016.

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